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Full electric vessels


Ampere, the world’s first electric car ferry (2015)

Ampere electric ferry

The world’s first electric car and passenger ferry, Ampere, has been in service since May 2015. Ampere is powered by lithium-ion batteries and is owned and operated by the Norwegian company, Norled. Ampere covers the six kilometres across the Sognefjord between Lavik and Oppedal in 20 minutes, 34 times a day, 365 days a year. The stretch of water is part of the European highway E39, which is about 1.5 hours north of Bergen on the Norwegian midwest coast. The installation of the electric ferry, which is recharged by climate-friendly hydropower, is an important step in the transition to carbon-neutral transports.

A winning cooperation

Norway hosts a large number of ferries carrying passengers and vehicles across the country’s many grand fjords and lakes. Big, heavy and noisy, they often appear as disturbing misfits in the pristine and grandiose landscapes. The Ministry of Transport and Communications therefore launched a competition in 2010 to develop the most environmentally friendly ferry. The Ministry also announced that the winner would get to operate the Lavik–Oppedal route because the concession license of the then diesel-operated ships would expire in 2015. The electrotechnology company Siemens, with 165 years in the industry and active in more than 200 countries today, teamed up with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand to produce an emissions-free ferry. In an interview, the Siemens Norway engineer Odd Moen explained that battery-driven propulsion had been used for submarines for more than a century, so why should it not be possible to “bring such a drive system concept to the surface?” (Siemens 2016).

The technical details

Ampere is an 80 by 20 metres car ferry that can take 120 vehicles and 360 passengers. The catamaran is quite substantial in size with an 11-ton battery, but it is only half the weight of a conventional ferry because it is made exclusively of aluminium instead of the normally used steel. Aluminium also means that the ship needs less maintenance, as the corrosion-resistant hull is better protected against rust and does not need any special coat of paint. Two electric engines with a combined output of 900 kW power the ferry. The lithium-ion batteries that fuel the engines have a total capacity of 1,000 kWh, which is equivalent to about 1,600 standard car batteries and has enough power to make a few return trips across the fjord. Siemens installed a 260 kWh battery at each dock to recharge the batteries on the ferry without causing temporary blackouts in the local villages where the ferry can recharge for the ten minutes it takes to unload and board passengers. The dock batteries can then slowly recharge from the medium-voltage grid before the ferry returns. Since the region’s electricity comes solely from hydropower, the ship runs on fossil-free energy that is cheaper than diesel. In comparison, a conventional ferry on this route would consume about 1 million litres of diesel and emit 2,680 tons of CO2 and 37 tons of NOX per year.


World's largest all-electric ferry sets sail in Denmark (2019)

Ellen e-ferry Denmark

The e-ferry is capable of carrying 30 vehicles and 200 passengers and is powered by a battery "with an unprecedented capacity" of 4.3MWh, according to Swiss battery maker Lechanché which provided the system.

"Over one year, it will prevent the release of 2,000 tonnes of CO2, 42 tonnes of NOx [Nitrogen Oxide], 2.5 tonnes of particulates and 1.4 tonnes of SO2 [Sulfur Dioxide] into the atmosphere," Lechanché CEO Anil Srivastava said in a statement.

The director for traffic for Aero, Keld M. Moller, meanwhile, said he is "pleased to be able to offer the passengers an extraordinary pleasant journey free from noise, vibrations and diesel fumes."

The vessel can sail up to 22 nautical miles between charges — seven times farther than previously possible for an e-ferry. It will now need to prove it can provide up to seven return trips per day.


China Launches World’s First All-Electric Cargo Ship (2017)

China e-barge

Here’s the good news: China has launched the first all-electric cargo ship. According to China Daily, the 230 foot long vessel is equipped with a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery that stores enough electrical energy to transport 2200 tons of cargo a distance of 50 miles on a single charge at a top speed of about 8 miles per hour. Time to recharge the battery is given as 2 hours, which is approximately the time needed to unload the ship at its destination.

“As the ship is fully electric powered, it poses no threats to the environment. The technology will soon be likely … used in passenger or engineering ships,” said Huang Jialin, chairman and general manager of Hangzhou Modern Ship Design & Research Co, which designed the electric cargo vessel. The battery for the ship is comprised of 1,000 individual lithium-ion packs. Adding enough power to carry more cargo is simply a matter of adding more battery packs.

The ship was built at Guangzhou Shipyard International in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, which is located on the Pearl River north of Hong Kong. The shipyard is a wholly owned subsidiary of CSSC Offshore & Marine Engineering Company. CSSC stands for China State Shipbuilding Corporation.


Hybrid electric vessels

First battery-powered cruise ship sails for the Arctic (2019)

Roald Amundsen hybrid cruise ship

The hybrid expedition cruise ship, the Roald Amundsen, can take 500 passengers and is designed to sail in harsh climate waters. 

Named after the Norwegian explorer who navigated the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906 and was first to reach the South Pole in 1911, the ship heads for the Arctic from Tromsoe this week and will sail the Northwest Passage to Alaska before heading south, reaching Antarctica in October. 

While the engines run mainly on marine gasoil, the ship’s battery pack enables it to run solely on batteries for around 45 to 60 minutes under ideal conditions, Hurtigruten Chief Executive Daniel Skjeldam told Reuters. 

The company estimates that the battery pack will reduce fuel consumption and save about 20% in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to if the ship was operating on marine gasoil alone.


2019 Ship of the Year: Enhydra (Hybrid vessel)

Enhydra hybrid ships

Red and White Fleet took delivery of the 600-passenger Enhydra in early September. The aluminum monohull is outfitted with a lithium-ion battery-electric hybrid propulsion system supplied by BAE Systems, giving the ship the capability of extended cruises in electric mode.

All American Marine of Bellingham, Wash., built the 128-foot vessel using plans developed by naval architect Nic de Waal at Teknicraft Design in Auckland, New Zealand. Enhydra is the largest hybrid excursion boat in North America and one of just a handful of passenger vessels operating with similar propulsion worldwide.

The twin-screw Enhydra has independent propulsion units on its port and starboard sides. Each has a generator paired with a 410-hp Cummins QSL9 diesel engine, as well as a propulsion power converter and a house load power supply and control system, according to the shipyard.

Twin 80-kW lithium-ion battery banks power shaft motors that turn two 48-inch props through reduction gears. The generators can provide simultaneous power to the shafts to increase output, or provide power to charge the batteries supplied by Corvus Energy.